5 Half-Day Activities that will Hook Kids on Winter

half-day activities

If you are raising kids, it is important to teach them to love being active in all seasons. Many easy outdoor adventures can bust through “cabin fever” this winter. Here are five half-day activities to try that your kids will love.

Run a Race

Check out the race calendar at www.mychicagoathlete.com for “cider hustles,” “turkey trots,” “jingle bell races” and other fun races in November and December.  It is important to choose age-appropriate distances. Elementary aged kids are most likely to enjoy 1-mile youth races. Save the full 5km distance for middle or high school-aged kids. Celebrate everyone’s efforts and deemphasize race times.

Hike a Winter Trail

Head to the forest preserve or park and go for a hike. Bring a backpack with some warm tea or hot chocolate to enjoy on a bench or rock. Look for animal tracks. Take photos. Identify trees by their bark. Winter trail hikes are just beautiful and fun on cloudy days as they are on sunny winter afternoons.

Ice Skate Outside

Park districts all over the city and suburbs are creating outside rinks in converted lots. Millennium Park McCormick Tribune Ice Rink and the Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon offer free skating admission as well as ice skate rentals ($12-14) and typically open in mid-November (weather permitting). Check second hand stores to buy used skates at lower prices if your family enjoys ice skating regularly.


When Chicago does get a good snowfall, snow shoes can make an urban winter hike feel like a wilderness adventure.  The Chicago Park District offers snowshoeing on Northerly Island during Polar Adventure Days. The Morten Arboretum offers snowshoe (and cross-country ski) rentals when there are four or more inches of snow on the grounds.

Cross Country Ski

Cross country skiing is quickly becoming the most popular winter past-time in the forest preserves according to the Cook County Forest Preserve. Test it out at the Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont where families can rent xc skis, take lessons and go on guided nature ski tours on groomed and tracked ski trails.

Keys to Success

Chicago winters are long, so it is worth it to approach the season with the spirit of adventure. Have a family winter planning meeting and plan out an outside adventure or two each month. Warm clothing is crucial for enjoyment. Both kids and parents need to wear a warm hat, jacket, pants, dry mittens/gloves and boots. Dress in layers to allow for cooler options when the activity heats up. Remember that it is simple to add distance or time to an adventure if everyone wants more but much harder to remedy a hike that was too long or uncomfortable.

Some of my family’s most memorable moments have been when we’ve headed outside on the coldest, snowiest days – wearing warm clothing and following a plan that allowed us all to get back inside before anyone was uncomfortable. With an adventuresome attitude and a warm hat, your family can look forward to the upcoming season.

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Chris Palmquist is an USA Triathlon Elite Coach, USA Cycling Elite Coach and Youth/Junior Coach with 19 years of coaching experience. She has written for Chicago Athlete Magazine for more than 20 years. As a Team MPI Head Coach, she has coached athletes to regional, national and world class success. She is a USA Paratriathlon National Team Coach and Team USA Coach at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, ITU World Paratriathlon Series and High Performance Camps at the Olympic Training Centers. Chris coaches youth and junior triathletes as Head Coach for the MMTT Youth Triathlon Team and for USAT at national Junior Skills Camps. In 33 years as an athlete, she has raced several sports including triathlon (13 Ironman), collegiate rowing (Cornell 83-87), canoe/kayak, cross country skiing (20 Birkebeiner) and road bike racing. Chris is married with two kids. Favorite Quote: “Do Simple Better” ~Joe Maddon


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